The circuit follows open coastline, crosses forested interior and meanders along the sheltered shores of Paterson Inlet. It passes sites of historical interest and introduces many of the common sea and forest birds of the island. Parts of it cross Maori land and access is courtesy of the owners.
Guided options are available. Find commercial operators that provide services for the Rakiura Track
Places to stay
There are two huts (Port Willam and North Arm) and three campsites (Maori Beach, Port William and North Arm) on the Rakiura Track. Note, campsites are not adjacent to the huts. Camping is only permitted at the designated campsites. When camping, you may not use hut facilities, but a cooking shelter, water supply and toilet are provided at each site.
Lee Bay to Port William Hut
A hundred years ago these sawmill relics were part of a thriving industry
Walkers on the swing bridge at Maori Beach
Time: 3 - 4 hr
Distance: 8 km
Passing through the chain link sculpture at Lee Bay, the track follows the coast to Little River, which is crossed by a bridge. At low tide it is possible to walk around the beach and pick up the track at the point.
From there the track heads around Peter’s Point and on to Maori Beach. The creek at the southern end of Maori Beach can easily be waded at low tide, however at high tide, continue along the track until you come to a small foot bridge. A track leading to a rusting steam boiler, a relic from the sawmilling days, can be found just few minutes on from the turn-off to this bridge. Maori Beach campsite is situated in a grassy clearing close to the beach.
A larger bridge spans the tidal stream at the northern end of the beach and from here the track climbs a small hill and continues on to the intersection with the track to North Arm. Turn right and you will gradually drop down to the campsite above Magnetic Beach in Port William/Potirepo. Port William Hut is just a few minutes beyond the campsite.
Maori Beach Campsite
Port William Campsite
Port William Hut
North Arm hut, nestled in the lush coastal bush of Paterson Inlet
Mussels on the rocks at North Arm
Port William Hut to North Arm Hut
Time: 6 hr
Distance: 13 km
This section of track starts on the hill between Maori Beach and Port William. Trampers usually stay the night at Port William Hut and then backtrack the 40 minutes to the turn-off.
The track passes through a variety of vegetation including previously milled and virgin podocarp forest. Remnants of milling activity are seen along the track as it follows old tramlines for the logs being directed to their various destinations.
A campsite, with shelter and toilet, is sited above North Arm Hut.
North Arm Campsite
North Arm Hut
North Arm Hut to Fern Gully car park
Time: 4 - 4 hr 30 min
Distance: 11 km
This section of track provides trampers access to the shores of Paterson Inlet.
The track sidles around the headland from North Arm to Sawdust Bay.It passes a sawmill site which was operated between 1914 and 1918. The track continues through rimu and kamahi dominated forest emerging at the sheltered bays of Kidney Fern Arm and Kaipipi Bay. At Kaipipi Bay two sawmills employed more than 100 people in the 1860s.
The track between Kaipipi and Halfmoon Bays follows the former Kaipipi Road, in its heyday the most used and best maintained on the island.
From Fern Gully carpark it is another 2 km along the road (turn left into Main Rd) to get back to Oban township.
Fees and bookings
Fees are charged per person, per night to stay in huts and campsites on the Rakiura Track. There are no fees to complete a day walk on the track or for entry into the Rakiura National Park.
Rakiura Track fees
| ||Adults (18+ yrs)||Youth/child/infant (0- 17yrs)
||Free (booking required)
||Free (booking required)
A 10% discount is available to members, staff and instructors of the following organisations, who also hold a valid 12 month Backcountry Hut Pass: NZ Mountain Safety Council; NZ Federated Mountain Clubs; NZ Deer Stalkers Association; NZ Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR); Scouts New Zealand; GirlGuiding NZ.
Discounts are not available online. To receive the discount we need to sight your membership card and Backcountry Hut Pass, so please visit a DOC visitor centre in person. If you get a discount you won't be charged a booking fee.
Bookings to 30 April 2015 now open
Book the Rakiura Track online
What to book
Before you start walking the Rakiura Track:
- You need to book huts and/or campsites on the track
- You can choose to book a shuttle between Oban and the start/end of the track - otherwise it's a 1 hour walk - or a water taxi to huts/campsites on the track
How to book
- Decide whether you want to walk clockwise or anti-clockwise.
- Decide what huts or campsites you want to stay at. Consider:
- Decide the date you want to stay at each hut/campsite. Note the maximum stay at each hut/campsite is 2 nights (although hunters holding a valid hunting permit may stay up to 10 days at campsites).
- Check availability of huts and campsites on the dates you want to stay. If there is no space in one of the huts/campsites you want to stay at, consider:
- Starting your walk on a different date
- Changing the direction you walk in
- Book huts/campsites online or contact a DOC visitor centre for personal assistance. Note:
- Bookings are required for children and/or youth even though it's free for them to stay.
- If you’re booking campsites, you’ll need to know the number of people in your group as well as the number of tent sites required.
- Optional: Book transport services to/from the start/end of the track, or to huts/campsites on the track. Find transport operators for the Rakiura Track
Terms and conditions
Read the Booking Terms and Conditions for general information, age ranges, prices, discounts, penalty rates, and the alterations and cancellations policy. Bookings not meeting the terms and conditions will be treated as invalid and cancelled.
Booking Great Walks on behalf of others
To operate a commercial activity in an area managed by the Department of Conservation, you will need to apply for a concession (an official permit), in addition to any bookings you would need to make. Read more about concessions
Booking on behalf of others
To make multiple bookings for facilities/services on behalf of customers, you must obtain permission or an agent agreement from the Department of Conservation. To do this, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting to the start of the Rakiura Track
The Rakiura Track can be walked in either direction, starting from two locations:
- The official entrance to Rakiura National Park at Lee Bay, 5 km from Oban. If walking from the DOC visitor centre in Oban, turn right and walk down Main Road. Turn left into Elgin Terrace, past the supermarket, and up the hill. Follow this main coastal road over a series of hills to Horseshoe Bay, then on to Lee Bay.
- The Fern Gully car park, 2 km beyond the Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre, which is located on Main Road in Oban.
Shuttles and water taxis
If you prefer not to walk from Oban, shuttles can be used for drop-offs at Lee Bay or water taxis can be used for access to Rakiura Track huts. Access to North Arm hut by boat is dependent on tides. Find commercial operators that provide services for the Rakiura Track
Getting to Stewart Island/Rakiura
To get to Oban, the only township on Stewart Island/Rakiura, you can take a 20-minute flight from Invercargill or a 1-hour ferry trip across Foveaux Straitfrom the southern port of Bluff. In Oban you’ll find accommodation, supplies, equipment hire and transport to and from the start of the track.
Know before you go
Stewart Island’s weather is very changeable and difficult to predict. Strong winds, hail and heavy rain can occur at any time of the year. You should come equipped for the very worst weather conditions. Remember, exposure and hypothermia can affect anyone and can kill.
What to take
The following gear is essential, no matter how warm it is on the day of departure. Remember to pack everything in your pack inside a plastic pack liner, especially your sleeping bag and clothes.
- At least two complete sets of clothing - one set to walk in and another dry set to change into, if need be, once you reach the hut. (It is not possible to dry clothes at the huts). NB: Cotton clothing such as jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts are not suitable. Polypropylene, which is quick drying (but can be flammable) is recommended
- Boots – comfortable and broken in
- Mittens/gloves – wool or polypropylene
- Woollen hat/balaclava and sunhat
- Raincoat and over trousers – waterproof and windproof
- Extra socks, underwear, shirt or lightweight jersey, depending on length of trip
- Food – lightweight and high in energy value. Take all you need for the entire trip - once you leave Halfmoon Bay there is no way of purchasing more
- Sleeping bag – good quality down or hollofil
- Portable stove and fuel
- Cooking, drinking and eating utensils
- Drink bottle
- Pot scrub and tea towel
- Matches/lighter, in waterproof container
- Candles and torch (include spare batteries & bulb)
- Toilet gear (include toilet paper)
- First Aid kit (include insect repellent and sunscreen)
- Survival kit (include survival blanket, whistle, paper and pencil, spare food)
- Optional extras – camera, lightweight footwear for around the hut, ear plugs for communal bunkrooms (you will be sharing huts with up to 20 – 24 other trampers)
Safety is your responsibility
Plan properly for your trip and ensure your party has a capable, experienced leader.
Mobile coverage is restricted to the immediate township area, so you may wish to consider carrying a Personal Locator Beacon or Mountain Radio.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
Fill in the hut books and include any change of plans.
Keep to the tracks. Off the tracks the valleys are steep-sided and densely bush-clad.
If you become lost find shelter, stay calm and wait for searchers to arrive.
Nature and history
Kaka - our wonderful, boisterous bush parrot
Diverse native birdsong, lush forest, relics of bygone days, beaches and rugged coastlines are all features of this year-round Great Walk.
Under the blue gums, all that remains of the Shetland Islanders' settlement at Port William
Maori established hunting camps or kaika at many coastal sites, including Port William/Potirepo, reached by outrigger canoe. Port William/Potirepo was the site of the early Maori settlement of Pa Whakataka.
During the 1800s its sheltered harbour was used by sealers and later as a whaling base. Gold prospecting was unsuccessful but the discovery of an oyster bed proved more lucrative. A government subsidised settlement by Shetland Islanders lasted only a short time, the bay’s gum trees the only remains of their presence.
Whaling Station at Price's Inlet,
Paterson Inlet/Whaka a te Wera
In the early 1900s, timber milling developed at Maori Beach which, by 1920, had two sawmills and a school. From the track, you’ll be able to see remains of the sawmilling enterprise which lasted here until 1931.
The sheltered waters of Paterson Inlet/Whaka a Te Wera were used early in the 19th century by whaling boats. However, the first large scale industry here was in timber, beginning in 1861 with the opening of sawmills at Kaipipi.
In the 1920s and 1930s the Norwegian Whaling Company ran a repair base in Prices Inlet where chaser boats were serviced in preparation for the Antarctic summer.
The “link track”
First established in the 1980s, the walking track linking Port William with Paterson Inlet has been improved and upgraded to take walkers past relics of the timber milling days.
Southern New Zealand dotterel
The Rakiura Track takes walkers through mainly rimu and kamahi forest with a rich diversity of tree ferns, ground ferns and perching orchids. Rata is more common at higher altitudes.
A wonderland for bird watching
Along the coast, keen bird watchers should look out for mutton birds/tïtï (sooty shearwaters), shags/kawau, Buller’s mollymawks/toroa, cape pigeons/titore and little blue penguins/korora.
In the forest, walkers may see and hear bellbirds/korimako, tui, fantails/pïwakawaka, parakeets/kakariki, shining cuckoos/pipiwharauroa and wood pigeons/keruru, grey warblers/riroriro, kaka and tomtits/miromiro.
The tidal flats of Paterson Inlet host a variety of wading birds including the New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu, oyster catchers/torea, herons/matuku moana and godwits/kuaka.
Aligning the Rakiura Track to pass long hidden historic relics, has brought a new dimension to Stewart Island's Great Walk - Conservation blog post 25 June 2013